Tour de France – Team News Stage 14.
"I never thought that it could win a stage this way”
The Austrian Georg Totschnig, winner of the first day of the Tour in the Pyrenees, said that he never thought that he could win a stage this way", and he highlighted that it would not have been possible if he had been level with Armstrong in the final ascent.
"I never thought that it could win a stage like this. I had a very complicated first week because I was sick before the start and I didn't have power, but little by little I have been recovering, so today I decided to test my luck, first with the escape and then with the solo ride", the 34 year-old Tyrolese cyclist said.
Totschnig, first Austrian to win a stage in the Tour since 1931, commented that "this morning it was clear that it was necessary to attack early and to take a risk to win because otherwise, if you arrive with Armstrong to the last climb, it is impossible."
"Alone? No, I was with Basso and Ullrich"
The American Lance Armstrong, leader of the Tour, minimized the importance of having been without team on the first climb when he commented that he was not alone: "I was with Ullrich and Basso."
"I was not alone at all, I was with Ullrich and with Basso, and I also had some good moments with them", he said in an ironic tone.
More seriously, Armstrong indicated that in the first climb his men had a tough time because the attacks were very hard and explosive and they didn't expect something like that, since they had set a constant rhythm."
"I felt dread when in the ascent I saw that T-Mobile was very strong and that they could attack on several fronts, but I already knew what they would do and I was devoted to following the rhythm and then to connect in the moment that I considered opportune."
Armstrong said that Ullrich as well as Basso had been very strong, but more so the Italian, he and remarked on the improvement of both since the Alps.
Regarding the stage he said that it will take its toll, because it has been very hard, he raced with a strong rhythm and in intense heat, and pointed to the possibility of winning the queen stage.
Armstrong explained his final attack at less than 500 meters from the finish. "It was to demonstrate that I am the boss, and Bruyneel also told me that he didn't see Ullrich doing very well, so I took advantage of the opportunity to add some more seconds."
Is this the first chink in the armour by T Mobile?. After a thrilling days racing in which the magenta team attacked and attacked , the site made this concession this evening -
Despite the fact that the toughest Pyrenean stage lies ahead tomorrow, few can doubt that Armstrong is well on his way to a seventh yellow jersey in Paris. This year´s Tour now looks like a battle for second and third place. Today, in the most thrilling stage yet, Armstrong was challenged, questions were asked of him, but the six-time champion had all the answers.
Jan Ullrich congratulates Armstrong and says “respect”
I think you saw today that we went on full attack and rode to our limits. But, Lance again remained in control through today´s attacks, to which we can only congratulate him and say: "respect."
Today´s breakfast was different to those in the Alps. It was very quiet, hardly anyone said anything, and when they did, they only got short answers. This was no bad sign, everyone was simply so focused. Everyone knew that today was the day. No matter what, we did not want to be left behind by Lance as happened at Courchevel. On the contrary, we wanted to expose him.
Today´s was a great team performance. First the escape from "Nardo," who left early, to be able to help later in the mountains. Later, the attacks from Vino to isolate Lance. Everything worked really well. There were three of us on the last climb, he was alone. I rode to my limits, first with the help of Klödi and later alone. If the chance arose, I would be able to take Lance. In the end, in the last kilometre he was again the strongest. But, it was a great sporting battle and for that reason I´m pleased with my performance.
Now, we have another 130km transfer to Toulouse to deal with. Not what one really needs after such a day. That´s why I immediately went to the back of our team bus and put my feet up. Just to recover a little. Tomorrow, I naturally want to be fully recovered and hopefully put in a similar performance.
Team CSC were naturally delighted with the work of Ivan Basso. The Italian looked very strong throughout the day and was last man standing with Lance Armstrong . Their website reports -
Team CSC's Ivan Basso proved to be in great shape, when he on Saturday finished third in the first mountain stage in the Pyrenees and thereby recaptured his third place in the general classification. Basso made several attacks in the group with the main contenders, and in the end only Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) and Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel) managed to hang on.
In the last kilometer even Ullrich was dropped as Armstrong accelerated, but no one was able to catch Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner), who had been in a break away for almost 200 kilometers and just managed to make it all the way to the finish in Ax-3-Domaines.
"It was exactly what we'd hoped for. We knew, that Basso has been doing well for the last couple of days, and maybe we've underplayed our role a bit, to take off some of the pressure. We tried to attack Lance, but as always he's very strong," said Bjarne Riis after the 220.5-kilometer stage.
Ivan Basso is now 2.46 behind Armstrong in the general classification, 1.05 behind Michael Rasmussen in second place while he has 1.48 on Jan Ullrich in fourth.
Liberty Seguros Wurth
Jörg Jaksche overcame the first one and very hard Pyrenees stage with a notable ride, because he advanced two positions in the general, up to the eleventh place, and finished the race immediately after Vinokourov and Garzelli, yielding 4:03 to the winner, Totschnig, and little more than 3 minutes to Armstrong, which consolidated his leadership in spite of T-Mobile hard assault, which destroyed the race and left him without team in the spectacular col de Pailhères.
Jaksche removed today any doubt on his form in the second mountainous part of the Tour de France and moves closer to a top ten spot. His performance today was notable because he suffered badly at the start of the climb of Pailhères, but managed to maintain his composure and fought back on the Ax 3 Domaines.
Alberto Contador and Marcos Serrano were the next Liberty Seguros-Würth men , while Roberto Heras and Joseba Beloki had bad days.
" I have felt very badly in the beginning of Pailhères's col, but then I have managed to react and I have felt much better at the end. I did a wild descent l trying to bridge to the front group, but I have not achieved it until the beginning of last climb, Ax 3 Domaines. It was difficult to me to take the pace again in the mountain, but I am satisfied of my reaction. Still it is to early to talk about results, because tomorrow is a very difficult stage and everything will depend on what T-Mobile does. If they attack again the stage will be very hard".
" I am very satisfied of Jörg Jaksche's performance, he has been very, very well, and also I am satisfied of the work that have made Contador and Serrano, that have been helping him up to where they have could. For us the question is what had happened if Heras manages to be in good shape, because the rest of the team is working at a good level. The young riders , Contador, Luis León and Davis, are doing a good race, so from now we are going to think a bit about the future. Roberto has failed, is true, but also it is true that cannot reproach him anything, because he came very motivated to the Tour and after having done a good work of preparation, some times these things happen ".
It was a vary hard day, since the waking up. This morning, at 7 o’ clock a false fire alarm has woken up abruptly the Liquigas-Bianchi riders.
After the breakfast they moved to the sea, in Agde. The stage started from there towards the Pyrenees. The finish has been settled in Ax-3 Domaines, after 220 km under a burning sun.
In this never ending day Liquigas-Bianchi was protagonist thanks to the effective action by Stefano Garzelli who broke away al the 7th kilometre with other ten riders. One of these were the winner of today’s stage, Georg Totsching.
«Maybe our escape started too early» affirmed the 2000 Giro king. «But today I wanted to try on these climbs, because they are very suitable to me. Unfortunately my condition is not at the top: in the last part of the race I was tired for the efforts of the day and I couldn’t keep Totschnig’s rhythm». Garzelli placed 12th as he was exceeded in the last kilometres by his nearest chasing men. This evening the rider from Varese will celebrate his great today’s stage and his 32nd birthday with all the Liquigas-Bianchi staff.
Tomorrow will have place an other hard stage, the15th, from Lézat-sur-Lèze to Saint-Lary Soulan (205 km).